Episode Title: "The Man Behind the Curtain"
Writer: Ryan Farley
Director: Peter Werner
Previously on "Justified":
Episode 3.06: "When the Guns Come Out"
Late at night, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry) wanders down the road to Nobles Holler while carrying on a conversation with his dead wife (the first one, for those of you keeping score at home). Arlo is stopped by Corneilius (Garland Whitt), who seems surprised that the old man is so aggressive towards him. Inside one of the processing areas, Tanner Dodd (Brendan McCarthy) is brought before Errol (Demetrius Grosse); the man who urged Tanner to start the Oxy war between Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough).
Errol seems intent upon killing Tanner, but his boss, Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) offers Tanner a second option: return to Quarles and beg for forgiveness and spy for Limehouse going forward. Limehouse is soon summoned to deal with Arlo, who demands to see his wife who died years ago. The men of the holler are relatively gentle with Arlo until he tries to pull a gun, forcing one of them to knock him out. Elsewhere, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is unable to sleep because of the jukebox in the bar downstairs.
When Raylan goes down for a drink, he runs into Quarles; who tries to bribe him in the mistaken belief that Raylan is Boyd's pocket. Raylan is more insulted than anything else and he let's on that he knows a lot more about Quarles' history now, including his predilection for beating up male hustlers. Stung by Raylan's refusal, Quarles leaves. The next day, Raylan leans on his colleague, Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) to call in more favors from his friend in the FBI to dig up info on Quarles. Elsewhere, Quarles' associate, Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) let's him know that Sammy Tonin (Max Perlich) — the son of their benefactor in the Detroit mob, Theo Tonin — is coming to check on their Oxy operation.
Later, Raylan rolls into Johnny's bar and runs into Boyd, who tells him about his father's mental episode and recovery. But Raylan isn't there for Arlo, and he demonstrates his displeasure with Boyd by punching him in the gut. And when Johnny Crowder (David Meunier) tries to intervene, Raylan literally dumps Johnny out of his wheelchair. In private, Raylan fumes that Quarles thought that he was on Boyd's payroll, but Boyd insists that he never said that he was. Boyd is also adamant that he wouldn't side with a carpetbagger like Quarles against his own people.
Meanwhile, Quarles finds the law enforcement ally he's been looking for in the form of Harlan County Sheriff Tillman Napier (David Andrews); who quickly accepts a sizable bribe in return for going after Boyd and his Oxy operation. Later, Quarles assures Sammy that the Oxy trade in Harlan can net $1 million each month, but he asks for more money to solidify things. Back at the Marshal's office, Raylan runs into problems finding Sammy, who is under FBI surveillance. After getting Tim to come through for him again, Raylan locates Sammy in an upscale hotel bar before FBI agents almost immediately escort him out of the building.
Back at Johnny's bar, the Sheriff begins earning Quarles' dirty money by shutting down the place for a locked emergency door and video poker games, causing Boyd to fume with barely contained rage. At the Marshal's office, FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Barkley (Stephen Tobolowsky) browbeats Raylan for interfering with the FBI's ongoing investigation of Sammy's mob family. Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) sticks up for Raylan and Tim backs up his story about chasing a small time hood connected to Sammy, but Barkley tells them to back off. However, Art seems to hint to Raylan that he should still proceed with discretion.
At the holler, Boyd arrives with a load of cash while looking to learn what Limehouse can tell him about the new alliance between Quarles and the Sheriff. However, Boyd is easily frustrated by the roundabout way that Limehouse doles out his intel and he threatens to take his business elsewhere. At a horse track, Raylan is able to sidestep the FBI surveillance team and get Sammy alone in one of the stables. Much to Raylan's surprise, Sammy hates Quarles just as much as he does and Raylan is easily able to persuade him to cut off Quarles' cash flow.
To tighten the noose on Quarles, Raylan convinces a judge to allow him to seize Quarles' rented home on the suspicion that it's being used in his illegal Oxy trade; which infuriates Quarles. When Quarles learns about the stop-payment on the money transfer, he confronts Sammy and cowers him into mentioning that Raylan is working for Boyd the next time that he is sure that the FBI is listening. Meanwhile, Boyd welcomes his former boss, Shelby (Jim Beaver) to the bar and explains his current problems with the Sheriff. In fact, Boyd thinks that Harlan needs a new Sheriff and he urges Shelby to run with his backing.
In Oklahoma, we see a familiar face in the form of Gary Hawlins (William Ragsdale); the hapless ex-husband of Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) whom Raylan ran out of town after Gary tried to have Raylan and Winona killed. Now hawking financial expertise at a barely attended seminar, Gary gets some unexpected assistance from Quarles. Later, Quarles buys Gary several drinks at the hotel bar and gets his guard down… before Gary is surrounded by Duffy and his bodyguard. And they clearly mean Gary harm…
Not many shows can get away with having a hero who not only fights with a man in a wheelchair, but knocks the man out of the chair as well. "Justified" not only pulled it off, it made the moment really funny.
But the way that "Justified" has settled into the major story of the season is far more impressive. This is just over the halfway mark for the third season and the show has completely dived into the war between Raylan and Quarles as well as the other conflict between Boyd and Quarles. That means that the stand-alone episodes are over and everything that's happening actually moves the story forward instead of wasting our time like some shows do.
Jim Beaver's return to the show is also intriguing, especially if Boyd's plan pans out and Shelby becomes the new Sheriff of Harlan. If the producers behind "Supernatural" were foolish enough to cut Beaver loose, than it's only fitting that he land on his feet in "Justified." Although, the only way that election is going to fly is if Shelby has some kind of law enforcement background. If he was just a mine manager and a Walmart greeter, there's no way that anyone would vote for him.
Another interesting angle is Limehouse, whose endgame is hard to discern. And maybe Limehouse doesn't really have an endgame beyond the desire to insulate the holler from anything that could give the surrounding residents a reason to attack them. Limehouse and his men also seem to have a certain sense of honor. They could have easily killed Arlo and disposed of his body, but they didn't even hit him until he tried to draw on them.
As for Arlo, his mental episode last week appears to have not been faked and he's deteriorating rapidly without his meds. It's the kind of character turn that makes it seem like his time on the show is nearing its end. The promo for this episode also made it seem like Arlo was going to be murdered; which turned out to be a nice swerve. Too bad FX's promo department revealed who dies in next week's episode during the preview trailer!
For such a weak character, Max Perlich's Sammy Tonin still managed to make a good first impression. It says a lot about who Sammy is that Raylan's first instinct was to slap him, just as Quarles did later in the episode. Sammy is clearly not cut out to be a mob leader and it was amusing that Raylan seemed to take a liking to him after he realized that he could easily manipulate Sammy into making Quarles' life hell.
Like most criminals in film and TV, Quarles suffers from a few fatal flaws besides his sick thrill for beating up male hustlers. Quarles thinks that he's smarter than everyone around him and he thinks that everyone is just like him for the right price. Quarles seemed legitimately surprised that Raylan didn't jump at his offer to double whatever Boyd was paying him and Quarles even seemed unusually hopefully when he ran into Raylan at his home as he assumed that Raylan had come around on his offer. It probably hasn't even entered Quarles' mind that Raylan has integrity and that he isn't secretly dirty.
That said, Quarles and Duffy know far too much about Raylan and where to hurt him. Gary may only be the start, because if they know about him, then they know everything about Winona and possibly even her unborn child; which would be the ultimate leverage against Raylan. In a way, Raylan would be better insulated if he didn't actually care about anyone. His father is practically dead to him and Raylan still doesn't really acknowledge his camaraderie with Boyd. All Raylan really has are his lingering feelings for Winona. And it could be his greatest weakness in this war.
Despite their one-sided fight this week, it still seems like another Raylan and Boyd alliance is in the cards. In a way, they're lucky that they once again have a mutual adversary. If it ever got to the point where there wasn't a third party involved in Harlan's underworld, then Raylan and Boyd are finally going to have to go up against each other in a more permanent way.
But that's for later seasons. The current season is coming along nicely; and if the promo for next week's episode is any indication, Raylan and Boyd's good times are over.
Crave Online Rating: 8.8 out of 10.